Tag Archives: Don Tapscott

Reviewing the Notion of Digital Citizenship

Chapter five of the forthcoming Flat Classroom book is squarely focused on what Vicki Davis and Julie Lyndsay call Digital Citizenship. I know it is not exactly a new term but I must admit I struggle with it. It seems inadequate in its characterization of the nature of  citizenship, which is tied to our conception of the state. Also, I feel that we may have exhausted the word digital as much as we have the letters “i” or “e” extraneously prefixed onto words with their own utility. The only reason, I even include this point is that labels matter, words matter, and in the last decade or so we have not completely risen to the challenge of freshly minting new vocabulary to meet the evolutionary needs of our dawning experiences in the virtual realm.

Regardless of these semantics, this chapter is an impressive synthesis of sources into a cogent pedagogical framework for developing what might be thought of as a kind of meta-citzenship, although I am not entirely are that terms is any better. It’s just that I have been doing everything I can to resist dropping the ineffectually feeble phrase “21st century skills” into the mix.

In the interest of confidentiality about the forthcoming book, I feel compelled to be more general in my comments. Nevertheless, by parsing Five Areas of Awareness that underpin behaviors and decisions related to life online a defining foundation is established. What I like most about the areas is that they are expansive and holistic, taking into consideration the broader, international reality the Internet fosters. Moreover, they are combined with Four Competency Areas inspired by some of the work in Don Tapscott’s Grown Up Digital.

Together these areas of awareness and competencies are used to comprise tables which serve to problematize the aspects of what they have defined as digital citizenship. This combination is, in fact, one of the deft strokes on the part of the authors. By presenting the tables with questions at the intersections of the elements, clear problems or challenges are established that demand thoughtful answers. Again, this is the kind of quality guidance that this text will support for an educator looking to develop internationally collaborative projects using the Web . Of course, there may be some elements, either in awareness or competency, that might be added, but, as I eluded, the list included is quite ambitious and covers lot of ground. Having worked with both of Davis and Lyndsay on a couple of projects, I must admit that I found the table presentation charmingly familiar, considering a substantial matrix is one of the key organizational tools for managing any of the Flat Classroom Projects.

One of the competencies included involves legal compliance and copyright. I will say that this is a topic that is critically important to me, if for no other reason than the sheer volumes of misinformation and ignorance that it encompasses. I spent years slowly investigating the Gordian Knot that is American copyright. It was inexperience that was fraught with a lot of fallacious and inaccurate information, as well as a substantial amount of propaganda from mammoth media conglomerates.

Due to the subtlety and flexibility of the law, it is a topic that really demands its own separate and in-depth inquiry. So, while I understand why it is included with the rest of the list, its complexity and consequence simply demand deeper understanding on the part of educators and students. For starters, I would encourage anyone to begin with Renee Hobbs, founder of Temple University’s Media Education Lab. The resources available there provide a blade to cutting the knot and gaining some understanding.

All in all, this chapter may well be the most original and interesting work in the book. It certainly has been the most intriguing and new for me yet.

Gearing up for Another Flat Classroom Project

Once again I am headed on a education technology journey with the likes of Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay of Flat Classroom Project fame. Last spring was my first foray into the multinational, collaborative, project that promotes digital literacy and skills and conceived by these two ladies. I took a grade nine English honors section through the NetGenEd Project, a spin-off of its original Flat Classroom cousin. Using the same methodology, my group investigated how digital technologies, outlined in the Horizon Report intersected with the Net Generation norms outlined by Don Tapscott in his book Grown Up Digital and how all of these factors can be used to improve education.

Without question it was a mildly harrowing but ultimately rewarding experience. I believe it was the most ambitious project Davis and Lindsay had attempted at that point. As one of eighteen classrooms from six different countries, my students dove into an experience that had them producing their own short videos on how their selections of technology and norm could impact education, as well as worked with a group of peers from other schools to collaboratively research and write a wiki page that provided an in-depth examination of the same. All of this work was adjudicated by panels of educators, as well as relevant experts.

I had very little preparation for the experience, consequently compromising some of my ability to alleviate some of the confusion that my students had. Yet, as Vicki Davis quipped at the beginning of the project, “The thing about working on the bleeding edge is sometimes you bleed.” In that spirit, I preached that they all needed to grow a bit more comfortable with chaos. That project unfolded so fast and was really in an always emerging state. This was not all bad at all. Yet, not having ever been part of something with quite the degree of ambition or scale had me feeling like I was constantly playing catch-up, a feeling the students also felt. Our feelings were often a little stronger than the was necessary for the reality of the situation. However, the students all were remarkable. They turned their seeming confusion into stunning results. During the awards show, they ended up with more individual mentions in the final awards tally than any other participating school, despite placing no higher than third place.

In retrospect, the most significant challenge proved to be managing the student’s expectations. At first the prospect of working with students from around the globe filled them with excitement. The notion of video chats with students in Australia, for example, was floated with gleeful enthusiasm. Yet, they soon discovered that hoped for inevitability was not really possible with the time difference. The reality of asynchronous communication that is at times messy and requires patience was not quite as exciting as they were hoping. Still, the experience was a great for me and the students. Admittedly, despite the difference of expectations, never before had the students used more tools and been able to identify more specific skills that they learned. Thus, the whole project proved  to be a great success.

Now I begin again with a new set of students, but this time it is in a new cycle of the original Davis and Lindsay collaboration. Already, the combination of my experience, having already completed a similar project, as well as the degree of preparation and maturity of this project is a great advantage. It all makes me even more excited to see what this group of students will ultimately produce.